Pile of Shame- Recommendations

Most gamers have a pile of shame, a backlog of games they purchased or received as gifts but never played. Alongside chronicling my favorite games each year, I‘ve started keeping track of the video games I finish from my pile of shame. I’d like to revisit this topic and plan to share future updates as I continue to track my games. Here is the first post of many.


Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PlayStation Vita)

To tide me over before I tackle Persona 5 Royale, I played Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3: Portable on my Vita. I’ve been playing it on and off for years and finally finished it last year. Like Persona 4 Golden, this game resembles Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To succeed, you must balance school, part-time jobs, social life and slaying monsters at night. The dungeon Tartarus gets pretty dull with the 264 random floors. However, the storyline makes it worth the effort. 

Compared to other Persona games, the 40 to 50-hour length isn’t intimidating. The portability makes it easy to pick up and play bite-size moments in your day and on the go. That said, there are incentives to play again. I want to go back later to play as a female protagonist for a different perspective. Also, I need to watch the social links I missed on YouTube and the animated cutscenes/feature film. In addition to checking out the epilogue on PS3. A good starting point to the series if you’re intimidated by Persona 5 Royale’s 100+ hour length.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney- Justice for All (iOS)

I love the Phoenix Wright games! These visual novels make for a great break between playing longer games. I pick up and play the series on my iPad regularly. While I liked the first game better, this one kept me on my toes with its entertaining and outlandish cases. Many have unexpected twists that keep you guessing to the end, and the writing is fantastic. Not a massive fan of the psyche-lock system, though, which feels overly complicated. It just doesn’t invoke the same excitement as the regular interrogation sections. Other than that, it’s a great game that drags on too long sometimes. I’m committed to playing all games in the series. Next for me are Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney- Dual Destinies.

Hitman Go (iOS)

Hitman Go resembles a board game, and each level set offers something new. You can spend hours doing the optional objectives like retrieving briefcases and completing a level in limited moves making the game highly replayable. It’s exciting to perfectly line up moves to dodge enemies, attack dogs, and other traps blocking Agent 47’s way. I highly recommend it, along with Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go. Both are fantastic, like Hitman Go, and offer a fresh take on the mainline series games.

Ever Oasis (3DS)

I’ve written about Ever Oasis before, and I’m glad to say I finally finished it. I spent a lot of time building my oasis and am proud of what I accomplished outside of the main story. I didn’t feel the need to 100% my oasis, though. Since everything required to do it felt like busywork. The same goes for the optional dungeons. Ever Oasis already provided me with hours of gameplay, so I’m satisfied. I’d recommend it if you like both Animal Crossing and the Legend of Zelda. Just don’t expect it to reach the high-quality level of those games.


Forza Horizon 3 Expansion Pass (Xbox One)

I finally got a new 4K TV with HDR in late November 2018, and I immediately booted up Forza Horizon 3 to play the DLC I missed. The Blizzard Mountain and Hot Wheels expansions live up to the base game. Each offers hours of content and new ways to race. For instance, night driving and the slippery snow add even more adrenaline rush to races. While making loop de loops, dodging dinosaurs, and turboing off large jumps feels exhilarating. I’m glad I played these expansions, and I can’t wait to play Forza Horizon 4 and 5 on Xbox Series X later.

Metal Gear V: Ground Zeroes (PS4)

Like Persona 5, not playing Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain remains one of my biggest gaming shames. I’m kicking myself for not playing it sooner after booting up Metal Gear V: Ground Zeroes again. The stealth gameplay is so good! Despite its short length, there is a wealth of gameplay here. The primary mission and six optional missions take time to master. It’s also very replayable, and I had fun approaching missions in optional ways. Discovering all the callbacks to the original Metal Gear Solid was a treat too. Now it’s time I play MGSV!


Pokken Tournament DX (Switch)

A fighting game that plays like Tekken and features Pokemon? Sign me up! Initially, I felt skeptical about the mashup, but surprisingly it works pretty well. Think of the Switch version as an enhancement of the Wii U version. I enjoyed my time with it. It plays great in handheld mode too. The game does get tedious toward the end with all the repetition. In fact, I ended up watching the rest of the story mode on YouTube. However, Pokken Tournament DX offers a unique spin on the Pokemon universe. It’s a delight to see some of your favorite Pokemon take on larger-than-life battles not possible in the main games.

I am Setsuna (Switch)

A spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger? Hell yes! Unfortunately, I am Setsuna doesn’t hit that game’s high points. But I still enjoyed it for two-thirds of the adventure. Despite being a rethread of Final Fantasy X’s storyline, the story kept my interest, and I liked the characters. I also liked the combat and the challenging boss fights, which kept me on my toes.

However, I never got the hang of the Sprintine spell system. I spent most of the game using physical attacks and spells for healing. I did use the memorable X-Strike from Chrono Trigger and other spells. But after a while, the game got too repetitive. Plus, I didn’t want to grind for better spells. So I decided to watch the last few hours on Youtube instead. Still, I’m glad I played it, and I recommend it to people who miss the old JRPG days of Super Nintendo. It’s not Chrono Trigger 2, though, so temper your expectations, and you’ll enjoy it.

Earthbound Beginnings (Wii U)

Earthbound needs no introduction, but did you play its predecessor, Earthbound Beginnings? More importantly, should you play it? I’d say it depends on how much you love Earthbound. It’s a great example of Nintendo’s history, and remarkable how much it carried over into Earthbound on SNES. Such as the iconic character designs. The creative combat, fantastic music, quirky dialogue, and unique enemies are all here. It’s just more of a rough draft than a full-fledged product. Which comes bundled with some terrible design issues. Which, unfortunately, Nintendo didn’t feel the need to remedy.

For instance, you’ll get annihilated by random enemies from the very beginning. To stand a chance, get ready to grind a lot. It’s the only way to make progress. The game gets more manageable but prepare for even more frustration later. Once you meet your remaining party members, the game gives you a big middle finger by starting them at level one.

Forcing you to spend hours grinding to get them close to your level. It happens three times, and some enemies kill you in one hit. Plus, you have no way to teleport or revive them until late in the game. So it’s frustrating. That said, I found parts of it enjoyable, like the dream world Magicant. I appreciate the excellent writing too.

Like I am Setsuna, I watched the last third of the game on Youtube. If you consider yourself an Earthbound superfan, then cautiously consider playing Earthbound Beginnings. If only to see what this prototype did to lay the groundwork for the superior Earthbound and Mother 3.

There you have it. Some games I played and recommended from my backlog. I hope you find something to play you enjoy. Stay tuned for future posts as I finish more games. 

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2020 Video Game Demo Impressions

Besides chronicling my favorite games from last year, I enjoy downloading game demos. It helps me control my urge to buy games right when they come out and at their most expensive. I appreciate that demos made a comeback recently, and even better, many of them let you carry over your save file to the main game. Read below for my thoughts on the best demos from 2020.

Trials of Mana 

This remake to the sequel to my favorite video game! The original release, while not perfect, remains one of the highlights of the Mana series, and the new gameplay changes make it even better. First, the graphics look gorgeous and don’t feel cheap, like the Secret of Mana remake. Second, the more detailed map alleviates the frustration of getting lost in the original release. Lastly, the core combat controls feel so much better with the improved 3D controls and expanded combos. I am looking forward to playing this one more to see how it compares to the original.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

I enjoyed the first Hyrule Warriors, which offered Legend of Zelda fan service in spades. This time the gameplay mirrors The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the graphics look fabulous. I appreciate the focus on the story, and the ample voice-acting helps bring typical modest TOZ story dialogue in a new way. The Hyrule champions and fan favorites like Impa make the combat feel fresh and give the usually repetitive Mosou games some much-needed variety. Another pleasant surprise includes the ability to play as the divine beasts for epic large-scale battles. If the entire game offers enough variety shown here in the demo, then this looks like one Zelda spin-off you won’t want to miss.

Final Fantasy VII: Remake

One of my most anticipated games ever! I’m so happy Square Enix didn’t go the safe route with this game. They took liberties to put a new spin on Final Fantasy VII while remaining faithful to the original. The real-time combat mixed with turn-based commands, along with the stagger mechanic from Final Fantasy XIII, works great. Just from playing the demo, the voice acting and strong production feel leagues above the original. If Square Enix strikes a balance between remaining faithful to the original while modernizing the gameplay, this looks like one of the best videogame remakes yet.

Resident Evil 3

Reviews seem divided, but I enjoyed my time with the Resident Evil 3 demo. The RE Engine continues to do wonders, and the graphics look amazing. I enjoyed the nearly-hour demo and savored playing cautiously. Gathering supplies and eliminating enemies one by one makes taking on multiple zombies more manageable.

The original RE3 struck a nice balance between action and horror, so I’m glad to see a faithful remake. However, I’d like to see some more creative risks similar to the FF7 remake, which doesn’t seem like the case based on reviews and playing the demo.

One thing, though, that holds up well remains The Nemesis. Who feels as terrifying as ever and made this demo close strong. 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to give some of these demos a try later.

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My Favorite Video Games of 2020

2020 sucked. Yet, video games provided people with joy when they needed it most. The industry continues to experience explosive growth and shows no sign of slowing down. More people played games than ever before for the first time too. Another bright spot included the launch of four new systems: the Xbox Series X, the Xbox Series S, the PlayStation 5, and the retro console Turbografx-16 Mini. Like past lists, I’ve highlighted games I’ve finished and not completed below. Enjoy and consider trying some of these games out for fun later.


Spider-Man: Miles Morales

I chose to get Spider-Man: Miles Morales with my shiny new PS5. Right off the bat, I’m impressed with the instant load times and beautiful ray tracing. Swinging around New York feels terrific too. I also enjoyed the venom powers and Mile’s camouflage ability since I like to play stealthily. The story moves quickly, and Miles rocks as a lead superhero. The game doesn’t feel bloated, and despite some over-reliance on combat, I found the game more consistently fun to play than 2018’s Spider-Man. 

Astro’s Playroom

Astro’s Playrooms astounds as a fantastic showcase of the PS5’s DualSense’s innovative controller capabilities. The four worlds each contain unique gameplay, and the music in the lobby makes you smile. AP’s also a fantastic nostalgic trip through PlayStation’s history. It’s worth a second play-through to collect all the PlayStation memorabilia. Highly recommended as the first game you play on PS5, and I hope Sony greenlights a full-fledged sequel similar to Portal 2.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards

Shovel Knight: King of Cards offers the most extensive campaign since the original and contains the most depth. The King of Cards plays differently than Shovel Knight, and you must master his spinning moves to succeed in SKKOC. In addition to the main adventure, each world map contains lots of content and tons of side levels. Seriously, don’t skip the medallions, or you’ll miss more gameplay!

I enjoy the world map too, which mimics Super Mario World with hidden shortcuts in the levels. In comparison, the airship where you upgrade abilities calls back to Mass Effect’s Normandy. All these extra touches extended my game length considerably. My only complaint involves the card game. Which I found boring. I’m glad you’re not required to engage with it though. I am excited to see what’s next for Yacht Club Games, and I hope Shovel Knight gets included in Super Smash Brothers someday.

Cadence of Hyrule

This game arrived in 2019 but received a physical release with all the DLC in 2020. So, I’m okay with adding it to my favorite video games of 2020. Cadence of Hyrule excels as a great Zelda spinoff with an excellent remix of classic Zelda tracks. I’m not a fan of the original Crypt of the Necromancer or most roguelikes since it means redoing levels over and over again. So I felt worried that I’d end up hating this game.

Luckily, COF includes save points and plays like Zelda, so my roguelike fears went away. Fixed Mode’s a godsend and not having to match attacks to the beats helps a lot. This game gets hard, like The Legend of Zelda II: Adventures of Link, but the Zelda atmosphere kept me playing.  Just like that game, I found collecting heart containers before doing dungeons made the game way more enjoyable. 

Enough with the bad, though. What I love about COF the most involves the callbacks to Link to the Past. Like LTTP, COF packs tons of secrets in a dense game world. The bosses offer a novel twist on traditional Zelda boss battles. Plus, you must use strategy to time your attacks and movement on the map, even in fixed mode. It’s almost like playing chess or Fire Emblem sometimes.

COF includes a meaty campaign that took me around 10 hours to find all the items/hearts and complete the game. Similar to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it does a great job of letting you explore independently.  But if you get lost, visiting a fortune teller points you in the right direction. I recommend this one if you enjoy Zelda games, even if you’re not a fan of most roguelikes. The Zelda touch and incredible remixed music make it worth the early frustration.

What the Golf? Post-game and DLC

My favorite Apple Arcade game that keeps giving and giving. What the Golf ? features an astounding amount of content! While I don’t think I’ll 100% it, I almost did everything. 

I immensely enjoyed the Olympic DLC, which themes the golf holes around Olympic events. Such as pole vaulting, hurdles, curling and more. While the Christmas DLC adds a lot with the dynamic of snow and the winter physics. I can’t wait for a sequel that improves upon the formula.

Super Mario Bro. 35

An exciting take on the battle royale genre with a clever Mario theme. I only played a little, but I enjoyed the concept. A shame that Nintendo put an expiration date on it, though. However, glad I played it, and definitely a fun way to celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary.

There you have it, a sampling of my favorite games from 2020! Despite game delays, 2021 I’m most excited for Neo: The World Ends With You and hoping for an update on the sequel to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Thanks for reading, and I hope you consider trying some of these games.

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2020 Video Game Honorable Mentions

Due to other things in my life, I didn’t finish every game that came out last year. So I like to publish my honorable mentions for video games that I only played for a few hours and didn’t reach the ending point. Below you’ll find a sampling of these games I enjoyed and plan to finish later.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

A pretty barebones 35-year celebration collection, and disappointing that Nintendo didn’t do more to celebrate their most famous game character. Seriously, Nintendo make more of an effort than a simple HD resolution upgrade and include more bonus features besides a music selection. Mario’s incredible 3D game legacy deserves better, and why no Super Mario Galaxy 2? However, despite my complaints, owning three fantastic 3D Mario games bundled together on Switch still rocks. 

Super Mario 64 plays so much better on a proper analog stick over the DS version making this the definitive version for handheld. Super Mario Sunshine holds up with the innovative water-spraying dynamic reminiscent of Spaltoon, and I dream of a sequel one day. Lastly, Super Mario Galaxy remains a delight, and its creativity with each level ranks up there with the best 3D Mario games. Not the best way to celebrate 35 years of Mario, but for many Nintendo fans, everything here makes this an essential purchase.

Last of Us: Part II

A brutal video game experience. I’ve only played up to the halfway point, but my game time surpasses the original Last of Us’s total playtime. The sequel offers better stealth gameplay and reminds me of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, where you crawl through the grass a lot. The combat’s much better, too, and it feels more like Tomb Raider. I appreciate that I can fall back on explosive arrows when I get caught, or going the silent route isn’t an option either.

Also, similar to Uncharted: Lost Legacy, early on in the story, you explore an open world level. By doing all the sidequests, you gain new weapon upgrades and health packs. I did every optional sidequest to stand a chance against enemies in brutal encounters.

When I say brutal, I mean it. The Last of Us Part II makes you feel each kill, and the violence gets intense. I felt uncomfortable when dogs entered the mix. Since keeping Ellie alive sometimes means killing most of them. Fortunately, the dogs don’t show up too often.

Finally, I’m glad I didn’t rush to push to finish this game because of spoilers. This game’s story unfolds slowly, and your enjoyment improves if you take your time. I am excited to play the second half from Abbie’s perspective later.

Disco Elysium

I have a Mac, so I don’t play most PC games. However, after hearing all the rave reviews for Disco Elysium, I prioritized playing it. I appreciate how the gameplay reacts to your choices by making your character and gameplay experience unique. It contains a fascinating world, with fantastic writing and voice acting too that kept me playing.

My only sour spot involved a bug where I lost my save file with a Mac update. I only played about three hours in, so not the end of the world. Now that the newer version with more voice acting and better design improvements, I’m excited to return to this fascinating game later. 

Persona 5: Royale

I love Persona 3 and Persona 4 but have yet to play Persona 5 despite already buying it. Glad I waited for this enhanced edition, though, and from the 20 hours I’ve played so far, I’m impressed. This game oozes style. You feel like you’re in Tokyo with a slick presentation and strong voice acting. The last point feels especially welcoming after spending 2020 mostly at home. 

I’m pleased that the dungeon design feels vastly improved, and the combat offers more depth. Something that always felt dull in P3 and P4. The tutorials help make more sense of everything, and the UI design rocks. The grappling hook helps with dungeon navigation, and the seed upgrades give you more incentive to explore.

Lastly, my favorite part of Persona involves the social links system, which remains as good as ever. Also, I thought I’d prefer playing handheld as I did with P3 and P4, but I’m glad to play this on a big screen instead. That way, I soak in the HD visuals and hear the incredible music better. I am excited to dive into another 100 hours of P5 once I finish some more games.

Thanks for reading!

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My Favorite Video Games Of 2019

Hearts2019 went by in a flash and so did my gaming time! I didn’t play many new releases. I actually spent most of my time clearing games from 2018. Such as the Secret of Mana remake. Still, I did manage to finish one 2019 game and play three others. Read on for my impressions and recommendations.


Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 finally came out last year! I’ve only played up until the Tangled world but I’m enjoying my time with it. What a delight to go through Toy Story my favorite Pixar movie from a new perspective. It’s a bit too easy and button mashy even on Proud Mode though. Still, it’s a joy to explore Disney worlds. And while the story remains convoluted as ever it keeps me on my toes. With the DLC out, I’m more excited to dive back in and finish it this year.

Devil May Cry 5

Another game I’m only a few hours in to give a full verdict. I’m relieved that most of my concerns from the demo I played last year don’t bother me anymore. Enemies feel more formidable and combat feels easy to grasp. As always Devil May Cry games ooze style and DMC 5 continues this trend. I love Nero’s ability to switch out multiple arms to enhance his combat style. I’ve been savoring the game just one mission at a time between backlog games. That way I appreciate the combat and story more. However, what I’ve played feels promising and lives up to past DMC games.

What the Golf

What do you get when you mix Wario Ware and golf? What the Golf? A clever game that redefines how you look at golf. Some of the golf scenarios feel equally creative and ridiculous at the same time. Golfing with the actual putt. Using a cow as a golf ball. Exploding barrels and cars. Golfing in space with gravity physics. This game constantly impresses me with each course and makes me glad I invested in Apple Arcade.


Sayonara Wild Hearts

Ever wanted to star in a pop album? Sayonara Hearts lets you live that dream. The game reminds me of Rez and the touch screen works well on the iPad. I only struggled with one level. The one where you had to predict where obstacles appeared on the road randomly. The rest of the game feels sublime and I enjoyed playing it in one sitting after I beat it. Queen Latifya’s narration and the confident art style keep you engaged too. Don’t miss out on this incredible audio and visual experience.

That’s it for this year. Hoping to finish more games in 2020 and excited for new consoles.

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My Favorite Video Games Of 2018


2018! Wow! Another incredible year of video games. So many great titles and so little time to play them. This year I didn’t even finish 10 games. Some big life changes happened to me. I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area without a TV! I still played a lot of games, but mostly old games and I ended up canceling my GameFly subscription. The Switch, Vita, 3DS, iPad mini and Wii U all kept me playing though and helped me survive gaming withdrawals. Besides gaming at home, I also found time to play at E3 and GDC.

So for this year’s list, I’ll be compiling my honorable mentions with my game list into one blog post. Read on for my favorites games from 2018.


Detective Pikachu

My last GameFly game before I canceled my membership. While I didn’t finish it, I found it enjoyable. I got a kick out of hearing Pikachu talk and seeing his love for coffee. He knows hows to wear a Sherlock Holmes cap well. I like a good detective game too. While the story isn’t as gripping as L.A. Noire, a Phoenix Wright game or Hotel Dusk I’m excited to play more.

Devil May Cry V Demo

I’m a huge Devil May Cry fan and the original ranks as one of my favorite action games ever. So, I eagerly anticipated the demo on Xbox One released after the 2018 Game Awards. The full game releases in March and from what I played it looks promising. The new gimmick this time involves Nero’s missing arm. It’s very cool to see him switch weapons on the fly and it reminds me of Mega Man.

Pros- The combat felt smooth after I got comfortable with the controls. The Goliath boss felt challenging and very spectacle. The graphics look great and the new character Nika who gives Nero new skills, weapons and items seems interesting.

Cons- Enemies sit around and do nothing and the tutorial doesn’t teach you the combat well. I had to look upon my own and from past experience to get the hang of fighting again.

Gripes aside Devil May Cry 5’s off to an explosive start. I’m confident Capcom delivers an action game that rivals the original Devil May Cry.


Kirby Star Alles

For the most part, Kirby consistently delivers new and unique fun gameplay experience. While Kirby Star Allies lacks depth compared to Kirby: Planet Robobot. Or Kirby: Triple Deluxe. I still enjoyed this one.

The gameplay hook this time revolves around Kirby’s enemies. Who in this game join you as allies. This gives Kirby Star Allies a New Super Mario Bros like feel. With some occasionally unique puzzles added to the formula. Everything looks lovely in HD too and the final boss impressed me. It’s definitely one of Kirby’s most epic boss fights in the whole series.

However, it’s too simple for me and way too easy. Also, unlike most Kirby games I didn’t feel the need to replay the story mode. The optional side stuff lacks excitement. Fortunately, Nintendo significantly patched the games since it’s the initial release. So I may end up replaying this again once the price drops.


What an incredible Spider-Man game! Insomniac nailed the web-slinging. I never got tired of the wall running on buildings and free-falling from the sky. The story feels fresh and exciting. Thankfully it isn’t origin story about Green Goblin again. All the actors do a great job and the story keeps you motivated to see it through the end. Almost, the perfect Spider-Man game. My only nitpicks involve the side quests. A lot of the open-world missions feel underwhelming. Like the stealth missions for Miles Morales and Mary Jane which feel kind of boring. Love those pigeon chases and the creative Osborn challenges though! I imagine Spider-Man 2 will surpasses this one and remedies its flaws with ease once it hits PS5 in 2021.

Thanks for reading!

In 2019 I’m excited for Kingdom Hearts 3, playing more Devil May Cry 5, Death Stranding and more. Check back in 2020 for my top games of 2019.

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My Favorite Video Games of 2017-Honorable Mentions

Games 2017 blog

Below you’ll find my list of video games that didn’t make my top 10 this year. Mainly because I didn’t finish them and I like to reserve full judgment on a game until I see the credits. With more play time I’d easily consider any of these games in my top 10. However, you never know if a video game maintains its quality to the end. That said read on to see my honorable mentions for 2017!

Monument Valley 2 (iOS)

A great follow up to the first Monument Valley. I’m about 10 levels in and Monument Valley 2 keeps getting better. It doesn’t break much new ground, but the inclusion of a second character to solve puzzles adds a lot. Once I’m finished I hope Ustwo adds more free DLC levels to extend the experience like they did with the first game.

Ever Oasis (3DS)

For more detailed analysis of what I thought of this game check out my “The Winter of Old JRPGs” blog post. But if you’re short on time, Ever Oasis makes for a nice relaxing game if you enjoyed Secret of Mana or Zelda. Its got problems, but I admired its characters. And its Zelda-esque design and Animal Crossing style town simulation kept me playing.

Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)

I played 10 hours of Horizon Zero Dawn and I loved it. It’s a looker with stunning graphics that make jaws drop. The arrow combat with robots feels tough but never unfair. It offers a huge world to get lost in and Aloy rocks as a strong female protagonist. Can’t wait to go back once I get a 4K HDR TV.

Nier: Automata (PS4)

Nier: Automata. What an amazing game! This weird Japanese android action game deserves all the praise it got. Seriously, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I’ve beaten it twice and finished half the side quests, but not even close to seeing the true ending. While Bayonetta remains Platinum’s peak, Nier: Automata makes for a close second. And outside of Prey, it packs this year’s best soundtrack.

Super Mario: Odyssey (Switch)

Besides finishing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild there’s no other game from 2017 I want to play more. I played about 90 minutes and Super Mario Odyssey and it already feels like it lives up to Super Mario 64. New sidekick Cappy allows for new power-ups not possible in any Mario game. Nintendo’s constant need to innovate shows why Mario remains the king of platforms. With a constant surplus of fresh ideas in each entry Mario always leaves its peers in the dust.

What impresses me most about SMO? Mario remains easy to pick up and play today as he does since his introduction in Donkey Kong back in 1985. Just a few months ago I watched my Dad play it. And I’m always amazed how Nintendo designs their game with such depth. But never alienate casual players.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

An easy pick for game of the year, but alas I didn’t get around to finishing it. Even though I’ve finished every mainline Zelda. However, I wanted to save Link’s biggest adventure for a less busy time of the year like summer. Plus, although Zelda in handheld mode looks great this game like Mario benefits from a big screen.

While I remain skeptical that Breath of the Wild is the best Zelda game ever made. That honor goes to a Link to the Past. I’m impressed Nintendo took an enormous risk with its most treasured franchise. Which resulted in them giving us a Zelda game unlike any other.

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

Not since the GameCube days do we see Nintendo’s three biggest franchise release all in one year. It’s good to see Samus Aran back. Who unfortunately doesn’t get to share the limelight as often as Link and Mario.

While this game isn’t developed by Nintendo and based on a weak entry in the franchise I’m having a blast playing it. I bought this day one. And I hope the sales encourage Nintendo to gives us even more remakes. Super Metroid, please!

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS Vita)

My first Ys game and I’m already very impressed. While the story and characters so far seem pretty boring. The real-time combat feels solid and I love using the dodge move to deal more damage. Also, I find it impressive that the game takes place on one large island. Which grows more expansive the farther you progress. An interesting diversion from most JRPGS. Which tend to focus on taking you to different towns and dungeons constantly. Only a few hours in but looking forward to playing more.

Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One X)

The game I’m proudest to own alongside my shiny new Xbox One X. Seriously, this game looks spectacular. Even without HDR! And like Horizon Zero Dawn I’m looking forward to playing this again once I get a new TV that does the game justice.

Persona 5

I’m a huge Persona fan. But I’m intimidated by Persona 5’s 100+hours commitment. So I’m saving it for later once I finish Horizon Zero Dawn, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. In the meantime, I’m playing Persona 3: Portable and Persona Q on the go to get my Persona fix.

There you have it. My favorite games of 2017. I look forward to seeing if 2018 can match 2017’s incredible variety and quality of games.

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My Favorite Video Games of 2017

video games 2018.jpg

2017, what an incredible year for video games! I spent most of 2017 paying off my student loans and saving money for San Francisco. Which didn’t give me a ton of time to play video games. But I still sampled quite a bit of this year’s best games to make a top 10 list. Like previous years, I make it a rule to finish each game. So, that’s why The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Horizon Zero Dawn didn’t make my list because I’m not even close to finishing them. Now on to the games!

10. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe (Switch)

An excellent port of the superb Mario Kart 8. I played the crap out of the original game on Wii U. So it doesn’t rank high on my list this year since I included in my 2014 list. However, Nintendo wisely added enough content to justify the double dip and its inclusion in my 2017 list.

First off, I don’t plan on trading it in ever. Since it’s possible to play Mario Kart anywhere now thanks to the Switch’s handheld mode. Second, the DLC tracks I missed out on the first time rock! And I hope the eventual Mario Kart 9 borrows from the design. Making tracks outside of the MK universe allows for fresh takes on the MK formula. Such as the Legend of Zelda’s iconic Temple of Time and F-Zero’s Mute City. Finally, the multiplayer modes add even more replay value and eliminate the main weakness of the original release. Play it if you missed it on Wii U. You won’t regret it.

9. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (3DS)

Kudos to Yacht Games for continuing to support Shovel Knight with free content! Specter of Torment retreads common ground from the first game but still feels unique. I liked the flashback sections the most since they feel like new levels.

Specter of Torment 1up’s Plague of Shadows for me because I enjoy playing as Specter Knight more. His levels feel more satisfying to traverse with a scythe than using bombs. While I’d rather play Shovel Knight 2, I don’t see much to criticize here. I’m all for Yacht Games releasing more expansions that complement the base game. Even better they do it without charging original buyers a dime. I’m excited what the final expansion Shovel Knight: King of Cards hitting this year brings to the table.

8. Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition (PS4)

I’m no stranger to Bulletstorm. I even wrote an article about its controversy when I went to school at UW Milwaukee. Well, it only took me seven years to finally play it and I now understand why so many players found it so fun. Like MK8, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition updates a classic with modern features. Since I never played the original Bulletorm it ranks higher than MK8 for my top 10 list this year.

The core gameplay remains solid and still plays, unlike any other shooter. While playing I always looked for what creative ways I could annihilate my enemies. Why shoot them point blank when it’s more fun to lasso them into a blade saw with my trusty whip? Bulletstorm encourages you to think outside the box and that’s why I love it.

7. Agents of Mayhem (PS4)

Sick of waiting for Crackdown 3? Then consider checking out the criminally overlooked Agents of Mayhem. AOM offers a variety of agents to play as and no agent plays the same way. It’s a blast to switch between all three protagonists at once and it adds a layer of strategy that Grand Theft Auto V lacked. It’s almost like playing a tag team fighting game like Tekken Tag Tournament. Where when one character gets low on health you switch to the others. I sampled out each character in their respective story missions. And each one’s backstory features a Saturday morning action cartoon cutscene that brings the game to life.

Sadly, the plentiful character variety doesn’t extend to the story missions. And it’s not surprising that AOM received scathing reviews for its repetitive structure. You’ll go to legion lairs and clear out wave after wave of enemies. Some missions even require you to do this before you start the actual mission! Still, the core shooting remains entertaining enough to compensate for the lack of mission variety. Some cool missions do exist though. Like the one where you sabotage a pop star’s performance so his fans see him for a fake.

To sum up, Agents of Mayhem isn’t the greatest game ever. Yet, it’s over the top silliness and fun shooting kept me playing until the end. I don’t regret playing it and wholeheartedly recommend it if you enjoyed Crackdown.

6. Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (Xbox One X)

If you look past Star Wars: Battlefront 2’s controversial loot boxes, you’ll find a decent Star Wars game. One that fulfills your dreams of playing something that looks like the movies.

For me, the single-player campaign takes the spotlight over the multiplayer. Iden Version played by Jania Gavinka from True Blood gives a great performance. And I didn’t expect so many Rouge Squadron-esque levels or lightsabers to make an appearance either. Once the campaign finishes three additional DLC story missions keep you playing. While not amazing, they lead the story to a proper conclusion which the main game lacked.

Outside the campaign, I dabbled in the arcade mode’s 20 short levels that offer three tiers of difficulty. In arcade mode, you play various horde-style modes until a timer runs out or you get enough kills. It provided a few hours of fun, but once I got to tier three the difficulty spiked too high. Online multiplayer didn’t grab me either. However, I found some enjoyment out of the Blast, Strike and Heroes vs Villain modes. The Starfighter Assault and the Galactic Assault battles lost their appeal after a few times since the matches dragged on too long for me.

Once I tested everything in SWBII I felt satisfied and don’t plan on going back to it. Still, I enjoyed my time with it and if you’re a Star Wars fan at least rent it. If only to see a Star Wars video game that finally looks like the films that inspired it.

5. Arms (Switch)

A fresh new IP from Nintendo always gets my attention. The Wii U gave us Splatoon and now with the Nintendo Switch, we get Arms. I spent a long weekend playing Arms and getting to know each new character. Like Overwatch, each character plays uniquely. So you’re sure to find someone who matches your playstyle. While it’s disappointing there isn’t a proper story mode, the Grand Prix mode offers hours of fun. And the Tekken style mini-games provide a nice break between matches.

What’s Arms greatest strength? It’s easy to pick up and play even if you’re terrible at fighting games. Something Splatoon did well for multiplayer shooters. Your list of commands isn’t rocket science and easy to remember like Super Smash Brothers. And half of the fun comes from faking out your opponent with one move. While the other half involves lining up your second attack. Also, not since Soul Caliber does a fighting game demand you pay so much attention to your defensive play. In Arms, a strong defense matters as much as a strong offense.

I’m glad Nintendo took another risk on a brand new IP and I hope an Arms 2 irons out its faults. With an improved single player, Arms 2 could revolutionize the modern fighting game.

4. Prey (PS4)

Prey starts out with a fantastic intro. Which sets the stage for an epic journey to discover your past on Talos 1. A lavishly designed space station filled with secrets. However, when you encounter your first typhoon enemy the game falls apart.

Chief culprit: Prey’s over-reliance on combat. While it’s possible to sneak past enemies, often it’s unavoidable and fighting the typhoons feels frustratingly dull. Since you’re vastly underpowered and you’ll struggle to find ammo. So you’re better off running away from enemies instead.

Prey does give you a wrench and encourages you to freeze enemies with the glue gun, but it’s tedious. I didn’t enjoy smashing tiny enemies that move quickly with a crowbar in Half-Life and I’m not a fan of Prey’s take on it either.

Luckily, Prey gets better the more you play. Once you get a shotgun and learn to create your own ammo combat gets less aggravating. Which lets you focus on doing the dozens of side quests alongside the main storyline.

Seriously, don’t overlook the sides quests! You get tons of neuromods for upgrading your abilities and they add more detail to the storyline. I did most of them. And before I saw the end credits of Prey my game time surpassed the 30-hour mark. I’m glad I stuck with Prey. Even though I almost gave up several times. It’s an engrossing game and while it doesn’t hit the same high marks as Dishonored it’s worth playing.

3. Splatoon 2 single player (Switch)

Splatoon’s multiplayer on the Wii U never grabbed me like it did others. I enjoyed it, but for me, the single player trumped it. It brought back warm memories of Super Mario Sunshine and I didn’t want it to end. I’m happy to report that the sequel’s story mode lives up to the original and feels right at home on the Switch. It’s not a revolutionary leap over the original. But I enjoyed all the new guns, mission variety and grinding on ink cables still never gets old.

However, Splatoon 2 falls short of the original game in one small way. The final boss battle. It’s fun and features a cool ending song, but it’s nowhere near as epic and bad ass as the first one’s multi-phase gauntlet. Nintendo’s bound to remedy that with the eventual Splatoon 3 though. So I look forward to what final boss battle they come up with next time.

2. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)

How could an Uncharted game without Nathan Drake work? Pretty remarkable actually. Without a Drake to focus on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy finds creative ways to shake up the standard Uncharted formula. First, with no extensive backstory to wrap up LL doesn’t overstay its welcome. LL adventure time feels substantial without the filler that plagued Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

Second, clever open world design make the experience feel different from past Uncharted games. Like Uncharted 4, multiple paths lead to the same destination. But LL features sides quests that Naughty Dog lets players tackle in any order. Third, LL plays like a greatest hits version of Uncharted. It takes the best parts of the franchise and combines them into explosive action set pieces. LL even offers a clever take on the typical helicopter boss battle seen in many action games.

In conclusion, LL more than lives up to the quality of past Uncharted games. And I’d love to see more games in the franchise. As long as Naughty Dog continues to innovate the formula. Don’t miss out on this awesome experience. Chloe Frasier and Nadine Ross carry an Uncharted game without Drake marvelously. How about a younger Sully adventure next Naughty Dog?

1. Resident Evil VII (PlayStation VR)

Believe it. My 2017 game of the year released in January! Resident Evil 4 remains Capcom’s greatest video game.  But in terms of pure horror Resident Evil VII surpasses it. Not since the Silent Hill days do I feel so excited and terrified to play a video game. REVII plays great on a TV screen, but playing it in PlayStation VR takes it to 11. The incredible immersion with PSVR brings a whole new dynamic to the experience.

Simple scenes like walking past a creepy grandmother in a rocking chair. Or down a long empty hallway feel terrifying! As does hiding behind a table while unkillable enemies a hair away search for you. Sometimes it’s too much and you’ll need to take the PSVR headset off to catch your breath! My heartbeat dramatically went up and down while playing REVII. And even though I felt terrified to go back I couldn’t wait to play more.

PSVR makes REVII a real game changer and once I beat the game it felt impossible to play it on a flat TV screen. While it’s easy for me to fault the game for its second half. Which focuses too much on combat and not survival horror. The first half feels so fresh and expertly paced that I didn’t mind. It’s not perfect, but nothing else last year came close to REVII’s wow factor. The joy and terror of playing REVII in PSVR all add up to an incredible experience that’s unforgettable. Making it an easy choice for my 2017 game of the year.

There you have it. My top 10 games of 2017. I’m going to spend 2018 catching up on the games from last year I missed or didn’t finish. But I look forward to what’s new on the horizon. I’ve already played the betas for Dragonball FighterZ and Monster Hunter: World and look forward to playing the full games. As for what else, I’m most looking forward to Red Dead Redemption 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Metroid Prime 4.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my honorable mentions.

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The Winter of Old JRPGS

Winter of JRPGS

Did you read Kotaku’s “The Summer of Old JRPGS” blog post written by Jason Schreier back in 2014? I enjoyed it. So this year I decided to create my own “Summer of Old JRPGS” list. But, unlike Schreier’s list mine begins in winter and focuses more on the SNES era. Read on to see some of my suggestions for building your own “Winter of Old JRPGS.”


Ever Oasis (3DS)
The newest game on my list and not an old JRPG, but I’m including it anyway. This clever Zelda/Animal Crossing game intrigued me immediately. Mainly because Kochi Ishii, the director of Secret of Mana, and his team at Grezzo worked on it. While it’s not the Secret of Mana successor I hoped for, it’s a fun light-hearted JRPG with interesting town simulator quirks. In fact, I found it very enjoyable building up my oasis with new residents. Which surprised me since I didn’t care for Animal Crossing. It turns out managing their shops, tending to my garden and other chores get addictive. So I’ll give Animal Crossing another spin for sure now.

Complementing the oasis building is the dungeon combat which feels very Zelda like. And the dozens of different characters each with their own unique abilities that help offset boredom. Even though it gets annoying returning to the Oasis to switch them out during a dungeon. It’s a meaty game too. I ended up buying it after renting it from GameFly to avoid rushing through it. Play it if you’re looking for a nice relaxing JRPG before you put your 3DS away for good.

Adventures of Mana (iOS)
Final Fantasy Adventure laid the groundwork for Secret of Mana. So I knew I needed to play this game too.  I never played the original GameBoy release. But I did play the remake Sword of Mana on GameBoy Advance. Which added a little too much story and robbed the game of its original simplicity. However, this new version is the best Seiken Densetsu game since Seiken Densetsu 3. I love the weapon variety and it warms my heart to see old monsters like the Mushbooms and Mantis Ant boss from Secret of Mana. Finally, the music holds up great and the game doesn’t overstay its welcome at around 10 to 12 hours.

What I don’t like is how easy it is to get lost in the overworld. Be sure to consult YouTube if you decide to play AOM. It’s also annoying having to carry keys and pickaxes with you before you enter dungeons. Since you can’t progress without them. Yet, the core gameplay holds up well and it’s a good way to prepare for the 3D remake of Secret of Mana. Check it out on mobile or PS Vita.

Dragon Quest (iOS)
Dragon Quest VII on PlayStation exposed me to this legendary JRPG series back in 2001. But I never finished that massive 100+hour JRPG. Last year I went back to the series with Dragon Quest V which I’m enjoying, but nowhere near close to finishing. So I decided to pick up the first one on iPad and I dig it. Prepare yourself for a lot of grinding though, but it’s a short JRPG and a good entry point for newcomers. Also be sure to have a guide handy so you don’t get lost. It helps for navigating dungeon maps and figuring out where to go next.

Mother 3 (GBA)
You’ve no doubt heard of Earthbound. And all the desperate pleas over the internet asking Nintendo to localize Mother 3. Well, I don’t know if it’s going to happen anytime soon. So I went ahead and bought a fan translated cartridge for GameBoy Advance off eBay. Early impressions… I like it! The game definitely packs the same charm as the original. Along with the hilarious dialogue and a similar combat system. You get to play as multiple characters too! What I didn’t expect though from Mother 3 which intrigues me the most is a pretty touching storyline. Which pulls at your heartstrings and goes places I didn’t expect. Mother 3 isn’t afraid to be grim. While I’d rather play it on my 3DS or Switch the small DS Lite screen works for now.


Seiken Densetsu 3 (SNES)
Another game I’m sick of waiting for a US release. Although, I’m hopeful now that Square Enix announced a 3D remake for Secret of Mana. I already played Seiken Densetsu 3 once several years ago on an old Toshiba laptop. But playing it on a classic SNES controller feels so much better. Last time I played Hawk’s story and this time I went with Duran. I’m enjoying my second playthrough more than the first time and I’ll play one more time later so I see everything. I still like Secret of Mana better because the gameplay in SD3 feels like a step back from it. Why can’t I cure all my characters with one spell for most of the game and why am I limited to one weapon per character? But flaws aside it makes some impressive improvement to the core Secret of Mana formula.

For one it contains a large amount of replayability. This game features six characters who each play differently and have their own unique intro. The class system helps deepen the gameplay and the graphics definitely look sharper. I also like the changes to the time cycle where certain shops and events open only during the night. In conclusion, there is a lot to like about this game, but it’s unfortunate it’s a bit of downgrade from Secret of Mana. Still, if your Mana fan you owe yourself to play it. And who knows when SD3 will get localized for an American release. So if you’re curious the game is available online or on eBay as a SNES cartridge.

Secret of Evermore (SNES)
I’m surprised I never played this game. It’s how Secret of Mana may have turned out if an American team developed it instead. And some people view it as an apology from Square Enix for not releasing Seiken Densetsu 3 in America. But, taken on its own merits it’s a competent action RPG and if you like Secret of Mana you should play it. The developers even kept the ring and combat stamina system from Secret of Mana.

I’m only a few hours in and it reminds me a bit of Chrono Trigger. The beginning hours take place in a Prehistoric era. That feels similar to the place with Ayla and the Reptites in Chrono Trigger. I also didn’t expect to get my ass kicked by the first boss and spend so much time grinding levels to continue. One thing different from Secret of Mana is the dog companion. Which was ahead of its time. Nowadays it’s a popular mechanic in games like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain and Fallout 4. While it’s a little slow compared to Secret of Mana I’m looking forward to finishing it this winter.

Lagoon (SNES)
Ever heard of this game? If my Dad didn’t buy it for cheap at my local video rental stores(Remember those?) I’d never have experienced it. Which would be a shame because I like Lagoon. It’s not the greatest game, but still enjoyable once you get past its flaws. Its got me interested in the Ys series now too since this game feels like a Ys clone. The biggest flaw in this game is your sword. For whatever idiotic reason it has the reach of a pen. Which means you must get razor close to enemies to damage them. And don’t get me started on those boss battles that demand patience to finish. You can’t use magic and they do a ton of damage. Luckily, as long as you save your healing items and grind levels you’ll be okay.

What I remember most about Lagoon though are the great music and its impressive intro. The graphics still hold up and I enjoyed the story while it lasted. So, if you’re looking for something different consider Lagoon. It’s a nice breezy JRPG that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and unlike anything else on the SNES.

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES)
I’ve heard mixed thoughts about this game and like Lagoon what I remember most about it is the awesome music. From reading reviews online it sounds like this game is Final Fantasy for dummies. Still, that’s not going to deter me from playing it. After all, sometimes it’s nice to play an easy JRPG. Playing it now I see why it’s not very memorable. The graphics don’t look any better than Final Fantasy IV. And the combat along with the story isn’t anything special. So far I’m only four hours in, but it’s decent enough that I’m looking forward to playing more.

Illusion of Gaia (SNES)
Besides all the Mana games and Mother 3, I’m most looking forward to replaying The Illusion of Gaia the most. The illusion of Gaia is one of my favorite SNES games. I’ve beaten the game a few times and found all 50 jewels. I love the gameplay which reminds me of Secret of Mana and Zelda. Playing Freenan the dark knight and Shadow adds some nice variety too. The bosses were impressive for the time and the story wasn’t bad either. After I finish it, I’ll play Soul Blazer and Terringma which share the same developer as Illusion of Gaia.

Thanks for reading. I hope you consider checking some of these games out or building your own “Winter of Old JRPGS”. Have fun.

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23 tips to crush $15,000 in student loan debt (+interest) in seven months

Student loan crush

Student loans. A heavy financial burden for many that make true financial freedom feel impossible. Even with consistently paying $218.70 a month I never felt my $21,000 student loan balance got any smaller. So I made the difficult decision to leave San Francisco in 2015 and work on becoming debt free.

It’s been a challenging two years and I wanted to give up many times. But as of April 28th, 2017 I’m living debt free. To help others I’ve assembled 23 tips I used to crush $15,000 in student loan debt (+interest) in seven months. Read below to see how I did it.


1. Know your estimated payoff date and find out how to shorten it

I did the math and if I didn’t start paying more than $218.70 a month I’d be in debt until 2023. I knew it felt impossible to pay more than the minimum student loan payment by moving out of Wisconsin. So I didn’t move to more desirable areas like California, New York and Seattle after Chicago didn’t work out for me. So before you start your own rapid student loan payment plan use this estimator to find your payoff date. Then figure out how to shorten it.

2. Set a monthly target and hit it every month

Student loans photo

My $1,500 student loan payment target.

The more you pay each month the sooner you’ll live debt free. I wanted to pay $2,000 to $3,000 a month but that’s not realistic so I settled for $1,500 a month. I made sure I hit that target every month. It didn’t start out that way though. I paid $50 a month extra. Then $440 a month until I reached my goal of $1,500 a month. I wanted to do more, but I told myself wait until your bank account surpasses your student loan balance to make the giant payments. Once April rolled around I made a $5,833.13 payment and wiped away my debt for good with $160 to spare. I thought I’d do it in September, but I ended up paying my student loans off four months earlier than expected.

3. Create a Mint account

It may seem like a real pain to track your money, but doing so makes you more conscious of your spending. So consider Mint and other finances apps to track your spending. The envelope strategy is a good idea too.

4. Read Student Loan Hero for motivation and inspiration

Reading stories of others who paid off way more student loan debt than me motivated me to pay off my own. I found people whose student loans balance skyrocketed up to $129,000 and they paid it off in five years. So, if you feel bad about your student debt read some of these stories to boost your spirits. No matter how bad your financial situation feels it’s likely someone started out worse than you did. And if they’re living debt free why can’t you?

5. Become a finance expert

finance books.jpg

Reading about finances isn’t very fun, but it’s a good idea to read up on the topic so you don’t make costly mistakes. Check out I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. His book is great and his blog contains a lot of helpful advice. I also like Lifehacker’s Two Cents, NerdWallet and The Penny Hoarder website. And don’t forget to check out Napoleon Hill’s famous Think and Grow Rich. As well as David Ramsey’s legendary debt snowball method and Warren Buffet’s financial tips. All these resources help you look at finances in a new way and get serious about managing your money.


6. Don’t do forbearance unless it’s absolutely necessary

If you’re unable to make your monthly student loan payments forbearance isn’t a bad option for a temporary fix. With forbearance, you don’t make payments, but your interest rolls over each month. I ended up paying more than $1,000 extra because I neglected my student loans until I got the “perfect job”. So consider forbearance if you’re in financial danger, but go back to a regular payment plan ASAP.

7. Don’t settle for making only the smallest monthly payment


I never made a late payment, but for too long I only paid the smallest monthly payment of $218.70. If I didn’t get serious and started paying more each month it would take me until 2023 to pay off all my student loans. Remember the more you pay each month the less interest you’ll pay in the long run. Even if it’s only $50 extra a month do whatever it takes to increase your monthly payment. You’ll save yourself thousands of dollars in interest payments.

8. Don’t forget to refinance your loans

A 5.8% student loan interest rate isn’t too bad, but I considered refinancing my loans. Since I paid my loan off fast I didn’t do it. It’s a great option though. Since your interest rate often drops below 2%. Many banks and credit unions offer this service so take advantage of it. Especially if you’re planning on paying off your loans for a long time. The downside? Refinancing your student loans usually means it’s difficult to change your payment plan. So before committing to it make sure you’re financially stable first.

9. Don’t forget to set up automatic payments for lower interest rate

A .25 percent reduction doesn’t sound like much, but if it’s going to take you awhile to pay your student loans off it’s worth it. I procrastinated on this because I found myself between jobs without work, but it’s a good idea. And even if you only set up the smallest automatic payment it adds up. Just remember to make extra monthly payments to pay off your student loans faster.

10. Don’t neglect your 401K, savings account and emergency fund

Carrying a staggering amount of student loan debt? If that’s the case, then it’s best to invest most of your extra income somewhere else. Why? When you’re in your 20’s and 30’s your retirement account contributions matter more now than later. The same amount you contribute in your 40’s and 50’s won’t match what you put in when you’re younger. Even though retirement seems far away don’t forget to contribute to your 401K or Roth IRA.

emergency fund.jpg

And don’t forget about building yourself an emergency fund either. If something unexpected comes up, you need to prepare for the worst. So pay off your student loans as fast as possible. But don’t do so at the cost of not contributing to your retirement account, savings account and emergency fund.


11. Consider moving back in with your parents

The easiest tip and the most painful tip to do. A tough decision at 29, but I decided to swallow my pride and live at home to pay off my student loans faster. That way I easily put $1,500 a month towards my student loan every month. Plus, I didn’t need to worry about any other expensive living expenses. Like groceries, the internet and other utility costs. As a result, I paid off $15,000 in student loans (+ interest) in seven months. Not an option for you? Then get some roommates or rent out a room to decrease your rent.

12. Live away from the city or popular areas

San Francisco photo

It was tough to leave San Francisco, but it’s not going anywhere.

Living in a city rocks if you’re a young millennial. But it places a burden on your finances if you’re not careful. So, consider living out of the city for a financial break. You’ll often save on rent and it’s easier to avoid all the distractions and impulse buys from the city. It’s possible to find good deals in the city though. You’ll just want to look at less desirable areas for cheaper rent.

For instance, when I lived in San Francisco I lived in the Excelsior District. Not the most exciting area, but I didn’t pay out the nose for rent and other living costs either. If I chose more popular areas like the Mission and North Beach, I would run out of cash fast. And although my commute into San Francisco took time, I still lived in the city without breaking the bank.

13. Know your weaknesses and address them

Most of my disposable income goes to videogames and food. That said I’ve found ways to limit my spending on both. Many people consider videogames an expensive hobby, but it’s not if you’re smart about it. Instead of spending $60 on a brand new game. I spend $16 a month on GameFly and rent new releases. I also follow Cheap Ass Gamer and Wario64 on Twitter to get notified on price drops. In fact, I rarely buy a game for over $20 these days and instead opt to wait until it’s cheaper.

For food, I read food blogs, use coupons, buy in bulk, make my own meals and limit fast food to once a week to save money. Keep in mind eating out and buying drinks isn’t a bad thing if you track your spending. And if you find creative ways to indulge. Such as choosing fast food options like Chipotle, Chinese food and $5 deals that fill you up. Plus, you’ll often get two meals out of these orders. Making it a viable option in the long run and you’ll feel less inclined to eat out more than once a week.

So, figure out where most of your money goes and find a way to cut the cost or reduce it.

14. Work smart, not hard, but do work very hard for short periods

For obvious reasons you want to work the job that pays more, but sometimes that’s not always an option. And it’s possible to make more money by juggling two or three jobs instead. That’s what I did from November 2016 to January 2017 and again in March 2017 to April 2017.

Working three jobs seven days a week along with 18 hours of driving may sound crazy. But I wanted my student loans gone by 2018 so I made the sacrifice. Having three paychecks made a big difference when making student loan payments.

I found working every day easier than working the same type of jobs M-F. Working 8- 12 hour days not too bad every day. But working 16 hours M-F even with weekends off not so much fun. The variety of jobs helps too. I didn’t mind doing sales work and talking to people after doing factory work.

Not thrilled about working overtime? Just remember it’s only temporary. It’s a lot easier to get through a long work week if you know ahead of time when the job ends. For example, I did a 10-week job with Microsoft as a brand ambassador so I knew it didn’t mean forever which kept me going.

15. Be ready for roadblocks

road block

My temporary job with Microsoft paid well to justify the long commute, but I didn’t drop my other jobs that paid less. That way I prepared myself for the financial hit when the job ended. Which meant keeping up my $1,500 a month student loan payment plans a non-issue. But don’t feel bad if you struggle one month and can’t hit your target. Instead, try to hit it next month or close to it until you get your monthly income back on track.

16. Delay gratification

The other hardest tip besides living with your parents. I wanted to throw in the towel and move back to San Francisco so many times, but I didn’t. I passed on applying to dream jobs because I knew I’d only make $218.70 monthly student loan payments if I moved. I made a commitment to paying off my student loans and I intended to finish what I started.

To fight the depression, I visualized a life without debt. Mentally said over and over again it’s only temporary and kept going. I remembered what a neighbor told me in San Francisco that the city isn’t going anywhere. But your student loans won’t go away on their own.

No matter how bad it got I remembered by paying $1,500 each month I saved myself years of being in debt. I actually looked forward to seeing $1,500 go away each month from my bank account. Because each payment meant seven months without debt. Remember your situation is only temporary. So repeat the words “I’ll handle it” again and again until you believe it.



Can’t find a full-time job in your field? It’s one of the most frustrating feelings after graduating college. Not to mention you’re stuck with expensive student loans to pay off. Luckily, your major doesn’t dictate your fate. So if your major isn’t working out then get a job outside your field. Yeah, it’s not what you want to do. But it’s better than starving yourself, not paying your bills and filing bankruptcy.

In a similar situation? Look below for some work ideas I used when writing full-time didn’t work out for me.

17. Some temporary job ideas

These work whether you’re looking for work or want to boost your monthly income. Plus, they pay better than minimum wage jobs and a degree isn’t required. So consider these until you get the job you want. Or as another part-time job besides your main job. And don’t feel ashamed to take any of these jobs because you think the work is beneath you. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to survive.

One thing to keep in mind though. Don’t list them on your resume or LinkedIn when applying for jobs in your desired field. It reflects poorly on you if you include irrelevant jobs outside of your field. Also, it’s worse than gaps on your resume. If an employer in your field asks about employment gaps just say you did these jobs to pay the bills. But leave them off your resume and LinkedIn unless it’s relevant to the job you want.

Security guard

My first job out of college. I spent most of the time patrolling a college art dorm and writing hourly notes. It paid pretty well and if you take more training classes your pay rate rises above $20hr. Another great perk for me included ample time to pursue freelance writing work. Some companies won’t allow electronic devices, but take advantage of your downtime if they do. It’s easy to work on some paid contract work or take online classes between your patrols and hourly notes.

Brand ambassador

Often pays double what retail does and you don’t need to use the cash register. Plus, some companies offer commission, quarterly bonuses and deep discounts on products. It’s a hard job to find full-time since most positions favor seasonal or part-time workers. However, it’s easy way to make some extra money on top of your existing full-time job. Or a great temporary job while you look for something more permanent.

Factory worker

Factory work.jpg

One of the fastest ways to pay off your student loans. You make good money doing overtime along with great benefits like health insurance. Work with a Union if possible though. I worked at a clothing, cheese and plastic factory and the latter had the best benefits because of the Union. The work gets boring. But with overtime, I made $24hr and $32hr on Sundays. And if you get it regularly with just an extra eight hours a week it’s possible to add $250 to your weekly check. Also, sometimes it’s not a bad idea to work a boring job. So you can have more time to focus on your passions, career goals and hobbies.

Conference event staff

A great place to network and make contacts to help you advance in your career. I volunteered for VentureBeat conferences and wrote articles on the GamesBeat community page. The experience helped me get hired at a tech PR agency and as a coauthor on a eBook for TapSense. Later I worked for a staffing company and made $400 bucks for two days of work. Like brand ambassador jobs most of the jobs only offer part-time hours or seasonal positions. But if you get them it’s a good source of extra income.

Temp agency

Already work full time? Consider a temp agency where you work once or twice a week. It’s an easy way to add an extra $60 to $200 a week. I worked at a cheese factory once a week and got paid $13hr to put cheese in a box and make boxes. I liked working there. Plus, I got free fresh mozzarella cheese to take home weekly. The money added up and I kept doing even after I paid my loans off for more income.

Remote work

remote work

No jobs in your area or live too far away from the city? Do your best to freelance your services to others in cities on Craigslist. Or look for contract work on AngeList and email people. A good way to build your resume and get hired full time later.


I worked at Costco as a brand ambassador for Sony and enjoyed working with the staff. Very friendly people who received great benefits. Like 401K match and shift premiums for working Sunday. I also liked that I got a free lunch every weekend I worked there because of the food samples. And I respect Costco for not forcing their staff to work on Thanksgiving. A rarity among retailers. So, if your job options feel limited then consider Costco. Finally, not surprising, but Costco received the best place to work this year from Forbes.


18. For holidays ask for gift cards or student loan payments

When my birthday and Christmas came around I didn’t request new video games or other gifts. I asked for gift cards so when new video games released next year I could use the cards instead of my cash. That way the cash I’d normally use on new games went to my student loan payments instead.

19. Use those credit card rewards

studnet loan credit

Guilt free spending at its finest. Everything here bought with credit card rewards and Amazon gift cards.

Everyone uses credit cards, but do you take advantage of your rewards? The more you use them for everyday purchases and monthly bills the more you build up points or cash. So practice some self-discipline and don’t buy those expensive purchases until you accumulate enough cash or points. Some good cards I use include the Amazon Prime Reward Visa Signature Card and Discover Card. I get 5% back on select purchases with both of these cards.

20. Use your tax return towards student loans

I got a bigger tax return than I expected this year so I used it to pay off my student loans early. With the money saved up from working three jobs and the $1,500 from my tax return, I made a student loan payment of $5,833.13. Paying almost four times what I paid in the previous four months. So when tax season rolls around resist the temptation to use it for your wants and put the money towards your debt. Think about it. By making one giant student loan payment once a year you’ll knock a year or more off your debt.

21. Make as many sacrifices as possible

I avoided bars, frequent trips to Madison and opt to stay home most nights. I didn’t go to expensive video game or anime conventions which I enjoy. I didn’t get a smartphone and stuck with a boring flip phone. Didn’t subscribe to Netflix. Did my best to limit fast food to once a week. Forgot about the gym membership and worked out at home. Didn’t see most new movies opening night and went to a Saturday morning matinee instead.

You get the idea. Think of ways to cut back and save that extra money for student loan payments. Here’s a list for some ideas that help. But like Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You to Be Rich says make sure you focus on the big wins first.

22. Try your luck at the casino and lottery tickets


Not a bad day at the Casino.

It’s possible to make good money if you gamble smart. I won $304.95 at the slot machines and a few bucks off some lottery tickets. Keep in mind games like blackjack and craps result in better luck in your favor than the slot machine. But you never know when you’ll get lucky. So don’t feel guilty about visiting your local casino to win some extra money.

Be responsible for your gambling and lottery ticket buying though. You don’t want to turn into the Twilight Zone guy. I set a restriction of once a month or every other month and a $40 limit. I view it as entertainment like going to movie or concert. I also only buy lottery tickets when the jackpot’s high and every other time I fill up on gas.

23. Sell your unused goods online

I’ve written about eBay, Craigslist and Amazon before so no need to reiterate. There’s treasure everywhere in your room. So get rid of some of your unused belongings for cash. Spend an hour or more on the weekend making listings and keep it up every week. The extra cash adds up.


Student loans 0

First off congratulate yourself! You’ve accomplished something most people take decades to do. Treat yourself to a nice dinner or a special gift. I went out for Mexican food with my parents and bought a Nintendo Switch to celebrate being debt free.

So you’re out of debt now what?

Use that extra money from your paychecks and invest in your future. Put more money in your 401K, Roth IRA, savings account and resolve never to get into debt again. Finally, share your story and help others around you achieve financial freedom too.

Student loans feel like a big bag of bricks on your back that never goes away. However, with some determination and hard work, it’s not impossible to get rid of them. Not all these tips apply to everyone. But I hope anyone who reads this blog post finds some way to rid themselves of their student loans for good. I’ve shared my story. Now it’s up to you how fast you pay your student loans off. Best of luck and remember not to give up no matter how hopeless your situation is. If I can do it so can you.

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